‘Into the Badlands’ Star Daniel Wu Talks ‘Walking Dead’-Size Ambitions

TCA 2015: Actor and executive producer hopes series will do for martial arts what that other AMC show did for zombies

“Into the Badlands” star and executive producer Daniel Wu, in talking up AMC as the appropriate home for his forthcoming martial-arts drama series, invoked the network’s signature genre show, “The Walking Dead.”

“For us, that was the ambition of being on AMC — they elevated the zombie drama to something that was very artful,” Wu said Friday at a panel for the show during the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour.

“That was sort of our ambition for this show, to take martial arts and create these fights,” Wu said, “but also create these characters that would be intriguing and have emotional complexity and engage the audience who wouldn’t normally watch a martial-arts movie but would engage an AMC show.”

Growing up, Wu looked up to some of martial arts’ biggest stars.

“As a Chinese-American kid growing up here, there was not many role models I could look up to on the big screen,” he said. “The ones that appeared were Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Those were the guys that inspired me to want to learn martial arts.”

Wu, along with fellow executive producer Stephen Fung, serves as fight director for the series.

Writer and executive producer Alfred Gough said that the show’s production schedule is arranged uniquely to facilitate its elaborate fight scenes.

“How it’s set up is with a fight unit that is set up concurrently with the main unit,” Gough said. That structure, he added, is modeled on the way that Jackie Chan, who used to manage Wu and Fung in Hong Kong, runs his productions.

“The first thing we did when we went to pitch AMC was say, ‘You want these amazing fights, which we all want. This is sort of how we need to do it, which is an eight-day fight unit that is not a second unit.’”

AMC announced Friday that “Into the Badlands” will premiere on Nov. 15 at 10 p.m., following “The Walking Dead.”